2019 Winter Meetings – Rule 5 Draft Preview

Wander Javier - photo credit Bryan Green on Flickr

As the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings draw to a close each year, and fans are still grading their respective team’s signings, trades, or lack thereof, one event ensures a bevy of prospects will change teams, the Rule 5 Draft. This Thursday, December 12th, all 30 teams will have a chance to lay claim to unprotected players, including 63 who appear on MLB’s team top-30 lists.

For those who aren’t familiar, all teams must add any prospects who have acquired enough service time to their 40-man roster or else leave them unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft. Any team that selects a player in the Rule 5 must keep them on their 25-man roster all season, or place them on waivers. While most of the players selected in the Rule 5 draft end up being roster fillers, some big names have also been chosen: Shane Victorino, Johan Santana, Josh Hamilton, Dan Uggla, R.A. Dickey, Marwin Gonzalez, Justin Bour, and Joakim Soria were all selected in the Rule 5 Draft before going on to make an impact on those MLB teams.

Will any of the players selected in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft use the opportunity to show an MLB team what they can do? Only time will tell, but here are some players to keep an eye on during the draft, in no particular order.

 

Lolo Sanchez, OF, Pirates
Sanchez is a speedy, athletic outfielder who performed very well in Low-A with a .301 AVG, 4 HR, and 26 RBI. However, he hit a wall in High-A and at just 20 years old the Pirates decided it was worth the risk to leave him unprotected. Due to the spot he would have to take on a 25-man roster and the fact he is still in the low levels of the minors, he is an unlikely claim…but one who could have some solid upside for any team willing to take a chance.


Esteury Ruiz, 2B, Padres
Ruiz should be a familiar name in prospect circles. He is ultra-talented with good raw power and enough speed to have stolen over 102 bases in 263 minor league games. The other thing he has done in those games is post a 25% K-rate that caps his AVG upside and prevents him from getting to that power in games. Couple that with defensive issues, Ruiz is a lottery ticket for a team that feels they can get him to make the adjustments needed to cut down on the K’s and improve in the field.

Sterling Sharp, RHP, Nationals
Sharp may be the highest ranked prospect left unprotected in this year’s draft, coming in at #13 on the Nationals list. He was limited in the regular season due to an oblique injury, and had mixed results when he was on the mound. However, his 3.99 ERA in AA hid a 2.51 FIP and an 8.5 K/9. He also dominated in the Fall League with a 1.50 ERA and 9 K/9.  He keeps the ball on the ground, which in the juiced ball ERA makes him even more attractive as a potential #5 starter. All of these things paired with his proximity to the majors makes Sharp a surefire name to be called Thursday.


Joe Barlow, RHP, Rangers
There are a ton of teams out there who need bullpen help, and Barlow fits the bill. The Rangers have a surplus and left him unprotected despite his upper 90’s fastball and huge strikeout numbers. With an eye popping K/9 over 15 across 3 levels in 2019, the only concern with Barlow is control, but surely there is a team that will try to harness his stuff and he should see innings for an MLB team in 2020.


Roberto Ramos, 1B, Rockies
Perhaps the player with the most raw power available in the 2019 Rule 5 draft, Ramos is a big lefty slugger who can offer a decent average and OBP to go along with above average pop. He won’t win any foot races but with 62 HR over the past 2 seasons and huge exit velocities to back them up, there are teams that should be giving him a look. There are teams that could use a patient slugger despite the high K-rates, so look for Ramos to get scooped up at some point Thursday.


Eli White, SS, Rangers
While not the most exciting name on this list, I’ve added White here for more practical reasons.  A super-utility player who can play all over the field, White has good speed (44 steals over last 3 seasons) and on-base skills (.337 OBP in 2019) and reached double digit HR’s for the first time in 2019. He won’t be penciled into a major league lineup every day, but his versatility makes him well worth the gamble for a team who could use a Swiss Army Knife of a player who can give them quality AB’s as well.


Cristian Santana, 3B, Dodgers
Another name who should be familiar to prospectors is Santana, who had a disappointing 2019 despite a .301 AVG. His HR’s decreased from 24 in 2018 to just 10 despite playing in the hitter friendly Cal League.  That said, he has defensive flexibility with experience at all 4 infield spots, and is still just 22 years old. There could be a team willing to take a chance on Santana and take advantage of the Dodgers‘ roster crunch to add an athletic player who could take a step forward in 2020.


Honorable Mentions

While these players are not likely to be selected, they are worth mentioning as formerly well regarded prospects whose stars have dimmed a bit either due to injury or decreased production.

Wander Javier, SS, Twins
Dusty from Colorado is probably on the next flight to San Diego to ensure the “other” Wander is selected.  I’ll forgive you if you don’t get the joke, but this Wander has a HUGE fan in Dusty. He may be the only one left after a 2019 season that saw Javier get more AB’s than any season in his career but he struggled to a .177/.278/.323 line with a 34% K-rate. He’s got tools to spare but just hasn’t put them together and is a huge long shot to hear his name selected this year.


Seuly Matias, OF, Royals
Matias turned heads with some of the best raw power in the minors in 2018, popping 31 HR in just 338 AB’s. Unfortunately that also came along with a 34.8 K% which soared to 44.3% in 2019.  His AVG plummeted to .148 and ultimately his season was mercifully cut short after 189 AB’s by a broken hand. His dramatic rise and fall has been swift, and I don’t see any team taking a chance on him this year.


Luis Oviedo, RHP, Indians
Closing out my list of Rule 5 players is Luis Oviedo, a player I covered as the Indians correspondent in 2018 right here at Prospects 1500. He was my #6 Indians prospect for 2019 and man did he disappoint. Coming off a 2018 season that saw him post a 2.05 ERA with a 0.98 WHIP and 10.6 K/9, Oviedo’s ERA ballooned to 5.38 at Low-A Lake County with a massive walk rate and ugly WHIP. After entering the year as a projected #4 starter in an organization famous for maxing out arms, his future is now uncertain and he most likely won’t hear is name called Thursday.




About John Stewart 9 Articles
John Stewart is a graphic & website designer, event promoter, and baseball enthusiast based in Louisville, Kentucky. He has been obsessed with minor league baseball since childhood, as the AAA Louisville Redbirds (now the Louisville Bats) were the only local team...which is still the case today. Now a season ticket holder, John enjoys watching top prospects as they come through town, as well as purchasing far too much cotton candy for his kids throughout the baseball season. Follow John on Twitter at @jonance.

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